Sunday, February 18, 2007

Thumbs up to BadScience.net

Firstly, introducing Ben Goldacre, the man behind BadScience.net. From Wiki:
Goldacre writes a weekly column, Bad Science, in the Saturday edition of The Guardian newspaper's daily science page,[1] with expanded versions of the columns with reader comments on his website badscience.net.[4] Devoted to satirical criticism of scientific inaccuracy, health scares, pseudoscience and quackery [my emph.], it focuses especially on examples from the mass media, consumer product marketing and complementary and alternative medicine in Britain.[5]

The era of Enlightenment is definitely over and its goals weren't achieved. Despite centuries of tremendous scientific accomplishments and advancement in just about every field, "scientific inaccuracy, health scares, pseudoscience and quackery" are all strongly on the rise, mostly motivated by plain financial gain (dare I say GREED?)

But pseudo-science isn't just a threat to common sense, it can be and often is downright dangerous, especially (but not exclusively) when applied to medical/dietary/nutritional problems. Pseudo-science and its acolytes, armed with the ubiquitous lab coat and a veneer of scientific parlance, preys on the gullible and the ignorant. The latter, often in search of more "choice" or "pseudo-spirituality" tend to lap it up and open their wallets wide for "treatments", "medicines", "remedies", etc which very often are entirely unproven (and frequently can be proven to contain no active ingredients whatsoever). In most cases the peddlers are really modern-day snake oil merchants.

Some cases are more blatant than others. The marketing and advertising machineries of most cosmetics firms nearly all use pseudo-scientific veneer to vaguely ascribe effects to their products which what is essentially face paint simply can't deliver. L'Oreal 's "DNAge" range is one of the worst offenders because the term DNAge implies the products somehow act as at the molecular level when in reality they can't even penetrate the epidermis, never mind do some genetic engineering.

Producers of shampoos and conditioners will also have gullible (and possibly vain) women (and men?) believe putting vitamins on your hair will make it look better. Ladies (and gentlemen): hair is dead matter and isn't even made of cells: the best hair conditioner is probably something like olive oil, but vitamins won't make a jot of difference. They're an expensive waste of time when it comes to hair.

Personally I find it amazing that the advertising standards bureaus don't come down hard and fast on these dubious advertising claims. But perhaps I shouldn't be surprised: nobody really likes to interfere with the Holy Pound, do they? And these companies have great PR and expensive lawyers...

Enough of my ranting which could never beat Ben Goldacre's lucid observations, so do yourselves a favour and visit
BadScience.net now. Visit often. Learn. Contribute. Go on, I tell thee, it's for your own good...

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